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OSCE CONDEMNS LEGISLATIVE PROPOSAL TO CURTAIL JOURNALISTIC FREEDOM... The OSCE on 15 July formally protested a move by Ukrainian lawmakers to prohibit journalists from publicizing state secrets. Ukrainian parliamentarians hope to make it an offense for journalists to obtain or publish what the media proposals term "confidential information that is the property of the state." Alexander Ivanko, a spokesman for the OSCE, notes that many Western countries penalize officials who divulge confidential information about the state. But sanctions are not directed at journalists or other media professionals who publish that information. The proposals have raised concerns among Ukrainian journalists and democracy advocates, who say the plan fails to define clearly what constitutes such "confidential information." They are also worried that it will be the government and state security forces -- and not the judiciary -- who will determine what represents a breach of the proposed regulations and what does not. The proposals, which still need to be approved by Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to be passed into law, give intelligence forces the power to search, investigate, and arrest journalists suspected of violating the regulations. The proposed punishment ranges anywhere from fines to imprisonment. ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 22 July)
...AS EXPERTS CITE HOW IT VIOLATES UKRAINIAN LAW. Tania Katyuzhynska is a lawyer working for IREX Pro Media, a U.S.-funded organization that runs a legal-defense and education program for journalists in Ukraine. She too criticized the vagueness of the proposals, and said journalists are fearful the government can label any information it chooses as "confidential." "The thing that disturbed journalists the most are the [proposed] changes in the information law, which state that the definition of possession and use of documents containing confidential information that is state property will be decided by the cabinet of ministers," Katyuzhynska said. That, Katyuzhynska said, runs contrary to the Ukrainian Constitution. "These changes in the law which envisage that the regulations will be decided by the cabinet of ministers contradict the Ukrainian Constitution, which is based on the precept that responsibility -- whether civil or criminal -- should be defined by law. She said the proposals also contradict current laws -- including one passed earlier this year -- which allow journalists to publish state or commercial secrets if it is in the public interest. She also noted that the changes were advocated by Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych with the open backing of the head of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU). ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 22 July)
STATE IDEOLOGY WILL BE REQUIRED AT BELARUSIAN UNIVERSITIES. All Belarusian universities, public and private, will be required to introduce a mandatory course in 2004 called "The Fundamentals of the Ideology of the Belarusian State," Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 24 July. Education Minister Pyotr Bryhadzin told journalists on 24 July that the Presidential Academy of Management is working on a syllabus and textbooks for the course. The initiator of the course is President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who earlier this year compared a state's ideology to the immune system in a living organism (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 1 April 2003). Political scientist and lecturer Uladzimir Rouda told RFE/RL that the Belarusian State University in Minsk will launch an ideology course for its students this year. Rouda called the course nothing more than "brainwashing" ahead of a possible referendum on extending Lukashenka's term in power. "In general, there is no ideology," Rouda said, noting that he refused to deliver this course to students. "I have read the text [of the course] very carefully -- it contains no substance.... Lecturers will be ashamed to retransmit those ideas because, generally speaking, there are no ideas at all." JM
UKRAINIAN JOURNALIST ATTACKED. Two unidentified men on 24 July attacked Oleh Yeltsov, a journalist reporting on corruption in government and business for the "Ukrayina kryminalna" (Criminal Ukraine) website (http://www.cripo.com.ua), Ukrainian media reported. The pair ambushed Yeltsov with a stun gun and a metal pipe as he was leaving his apartment in Kyiv. Yeltsov was hospitalized, according to "Ukrayina kryminalna." Police have opened an investigation into the incident. JM
CZECH DAILY SAYS HOMELESS CHILDREN FROM ALL OVER EASTERN EUROPE ARE COMING TO PRAGUE. The daily "Lidove noviny" reported on 24 July said Prague is attracting an increasing number of homeless children from across Eastern Europe, dpa reported. The report said hundreds of children are sleeping on the streets of the Czech capital. While most are Czech victims of broken homes or sexual abuse, about one in five has traveled to Prague from Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, or Ukraine, according to a social worker quoted in the article. The same source said Czech authorities try to return such homeless children to their parents, adding that often "no one is interested in them." MS